Have You Ever Been Counselled By A Horse?

Welcome to our new series focusing on smallBIZperation. We are following our own advice and taking the opportunity to spend time with great people. At Scope Vision we are genuinely interested in what makes people and businesses succeed. This series will introduce you to some of Perth’s interesting and unusual businesses, as well as their owners, as we spend time exploring just what makes them unique.

Have you ever been counselled by a horse?

Louise Atkinson, owner of Whispering Sands Horse Play Centre, invited me to experience the tranquillity and magic of spending time with her herd at her Bullsbrook business. Not known for being much of a horseperson, I was cautiously excited as I hit the road. My sole horse experience comes courtesy of my girlfriend in New Zealand Julie Johnstone, who assured me I would have no trouble riding one of her old farm mares. The outcome was akin to a ‘Faulty Towers’ episode. Both the saddle and I went sideways falling in a huddle on the ground as I attempted unsuccessfully to mount the poor thing. Once in the saddle, it was agreed, that I just wasn’t built for horse riding! Much to my relief I was authorised to dismount after just once around the paddock.

When I arrived at the Whispering Sands Horse Play Centre I was met by Kodi, the Labrador who excitedly invited me to join him and play in the bath.

My attention however turned to the nearest horse paddock, where I noticed the most magnificent creature I have ever seen; Zebedee, an 18 hand Swedish Warmblood. I fell instantly in love.

Zebedee decided to work with me throughout my counselling session and I am so grateful that he chose me. Louise had thought that Savvy the herd leader would select me not Zebedee; who to my amazement is ranked on the bottom by the herd despite his stature and presence.

Everything quickly became oxymoronic for me: Zeb had such height and such strength, yet his neck was so soft when you snuggled him; light markings on his shoulders, black stockings on his feet; harsh mane hair resting against a soft nose; so powerful and majestic, yet he didn’t say a word; clearly the largest and the most noticeable horse, yet not the herd leader. I relished spending time reflecting on the lessons Zeb taught me.

How did Louise get into such a business; I was dying to know.

Louise Atkinson and Whispering Sands Horse Play Centre

Louise is a qualified counsellor and 4 star licensed Parelli professional, who offers counselling with a difference; she uses horses to assist her with her sessions.

“Horses offer so much more than a regular counselling session can achieve. They help people to open up and talk about things that they don’t usually discuss. They offer such strong support mechanisms and seem to gently unravel an insight into my clients’ world.

My office is outdoors, amongst nature. I find that just being outside in the presence of trees, birds, sunshine and of course horses, can instantly help relieve the stress that people hold.”

Motivation and mindset

Why did you start your own business?

“I have taught natural horsemanship and horse whispering for more than 20 years. My counselling business is really an extension of my horse psychology business; I was teaching people how to develop better relationships with their own horses. Over the years I noticed how much people needed to change their thoughts, emotions and body language just to get along. I also noticed how these things enhanced their human relationships. I decided I wanted to start helping people and I knew that horses were the perfect vehicle to assist me. Whispering Sands Horse Play Centre opened up the opportunity for people to spend time in a unique environment accessing my counselling services who did not have the access to or the luxury of owning their own horse.

I am passionate about helping people. I want to help everyone lead a happier, more fulfilling and, authentic life. Whispering Sands Horse Play Centre is helping me achieve this.”

Benefits and best bits

What are the benefits of owning a small business and what have been your wins?

“I love seeing someone become aware of something that has been getting in their way, or holding them back in their lives. Watching them change and grow fills my heart with such gratitude. The fact that I can be a part of their journey, to be privy to some of their most intimate moments and revelations, is so special to me.

I love that I can choose my hours so that I can enjoy life, as well as earn a living doing what I love.”

Challenges and trip ups!

What hurdles have you faced and how did you get through them?

“What I do is so different and hard to explain. The challenge for me becomes how to help people understand what I do so that they have confidence in booking a session. Finding my niche market without spending a fortune on advertising is my major challenge.

Learning where to market, who to market to and what is the best platform has been my learning curve. Marketing companies have been clever at drawing me in and I have made some expensive mistakes in the past.”

Lessons learned; advice for rookies!

If lunching with someone contemplating starting a business similar to yours, what advice would you give them? And what lessons have you learned??

“I would let them know that it is really hard to get started and that they need to be aware that it is a very slow process. Word of mouth and generating raving fans is the best way to market this type of business. If that means offering free sessions to friends and family then do it – just to get your business name out into the world.

Be prepared for lessons in computer technology, social media etc. I have had to struggle my way through technology when all I really wanted was to be working outside.

Use the services of others for things you aren’t good at such as bookkeeping and tax. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with the old fashioned bartering system as your business starts out.”

It really was one of the best experiences of my life!

I loved my time spent with Louise at her Whispering Sands Horse Play Centre; it really was a memorable moment. Louise was right; until you experience a session facilitated with horses you won’t truly understand how effective and motivating this can be. A session with Louise and her herd get you thinking, feeling, exploring, and in my instance, challenging and moving boundaries. My time with Louise and Zeb is forever etched in my heart. I am so grateful for the experience.

If you would like to experience equine assisted counselling and learning sessions, then contact Louise Atkinson through her website http://www.whisperingsands.com.au/

It’s not just therapy...it’s growth and fun!

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Maria-Jane Satterthwaite

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 29, MJ knew her journey was going to be unique! 

No way was she going to waste any of her years working 9-5 under poor leadership! She seized the opportunity to become an independent worker; starting her own Registered Training Organisation, Scope Vision.

MJ’s curiosity into what drives people, and businesses, to achieve success has been the passion recognised in her award-winning business. The drive to continue to train and embrace lifelong learning has been her key to success, and she wants to see this happen for others.

20 years on, the passion and curiosity she’s used to shape the businesses she works with, and her longevity in these relationships have inspired her to think about the future of work; what this will mean for workers in general and indeed her own business. Find out more about MJ